Alternative Therapies and Lifestyle

Picking Up the Pieces: Moving Forward After Surviving Cancer

+ Pamela Friedman

“People who have fought cancer and won may expect to go back to their ordinary lives. But life after cancer can be anything but ordinary.”

So writes John Casey for WebMD. If you’re a cancer survivor, you probably know exactly what he’s talking about. Surviving cancer was your main goal for months, maybe years. Now, maybe it’s in remission, or the doctor has given you a clean bill of health. Suddenly that battle you were using all your resources to fight is gone from your life. And strangely enough, you feel the gap.

“Once you finish treatment, says Susan Nessim, author of Can Survive: Reclaiming Your Life After Cancer, “people start moving away from you because they assume you’re fine now. But it’s not that easy. Many of us are not prepared for the fact that everything isn’t going to be the same.”

Enter a new book by authors Sherri Magee and Kathy Scalzo: Picking Up the Pieces: Moving Forward After Surviving Cancer. Since cancer survivors don’t get guidelines for how to navigate life after treatment, this book answers a lot of questions, like “Why do I feel confused?”, “I’m out of sync with my friends-how come?”, and “What if it comes back?” It presents four phases of the process of getting back into life, and relays the experiences of real cancer survivors with practical advice.

“This book is about the period after cancer diagnosis and treatment,” writes Anita M. Unruh for The Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, “described by survivors as ‘an in-between place, limbo, a weird nothingness, a neutral zone,’ or ‘the Void’ as the authors named it. It is about navigating the confusing and often contradictory emotions and thoughts experienced following the intense struggle for survival that characterizes treatment.”

“Coping with a cancer diagnosis and treatment is no doubt difficult,” says the BC Cancer Agency, “but the aftermath of surviving the disease often comes with a new set of challenges. As Michael Kleisinger, a 29-year-old cancer survivor, puts matter-of-factly, ‘My life cannot go back to the way it was. My outlook on life has changed. Even after finishing treatment, your battle with cancer becomes a daily challenge.’”

Dr. Sherri Magee, co-author of the book, is an independent oncology researcher who has designed cancer-recovery programs for more than 15 years. “[Cancer survivors] are exhausted, overwhelmed with fears of recurrence, struggling to manage the side effects of treatment, and trying to make sense of the experience,” she says.

Kathy Scalzo, the other co-author, has designed and implemented change initiatives for over 200 healthcare organizations, and spent four years studying hundreds of cancer survivors. “Cancer shatters a lot of illusions,” she says. “The illusion of health, the illusion of having control over their lives. Survivors live with a roller coaster of emotions because right next to the intense gratitude for life sits fear and anxiety, even depression because you are not who you were.”

Both authors point to faith and spiritual practices as “incredible coping mechanisms” for getting through this difficult period. If you’re experiencing any of these emotions, get your copy today!

If you’re looking for answers after cancer treatment, please check out Kathy and Sherri’s book at their Amazon page.